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Public Statements

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery at the LULAC National Convention

By:
Date:
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Good afternoon everyone, buenas tardes.

It's great to be with all of you today in beautiful Albuquerque!

Thank you Rosa (Rosales) for your introduction and for your commitment to leading the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the country.

I understand that this is your final year as president -- so allow me to congratulate you on your efforts throughout your tenure.

You are indeed a "wise Latina" and a strong leader.

I want to thank and congratulate LULAC's Board of Directors for their commitment to LULAC's achievements and success.

I also want to thank LULAC's National Executive Director, Brent Wilkes for his ongoing commitment to improve the quality of life of the Latino community.

LULAC, it feels good to be with thank you for your invitation.

I am personally proud to see this organization operating at full force... for more than 80 years now!

We all know and have witnessed numerous organizations come and go... but LULAC is still here and I think that deserves a round of applause!

For 81 years, LULAC has worked to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of Latinos in the United States.

These are the same things I have fought for my entire career... from the state assembly in California, to floor of the U.S. Congress... and now as your U.S. Cabinet Secretary of Labor.

You see, like many of you I come from a home that shared the values of a hard day's work... they taught me to fight against injustice in the workplace and in my community.

I am proud to have walked the picket line, proud to have fought for workers and women's rights, and I am proud to be helping all workers in this country achieve a little more; to live a better life.

I don't have to tell you that there were and unfortunately still are millions of workers and their families struggling to make ends meet.

As the President said, "This will not be a real recovery until people can feel it in their own lives".

Their worries, fears, and problems are the focus of this Administration and for me at the Department of Labor.

That's who I am fighting for everyday!

Thanks to President Obama's push for the Recovery Act, today we have helped the nation gain 600,000 jobs since this past January.

Millions of Americans kept their jobs due to the investments in the Recovery Act, like firefighters, police officers and teachers.

And we've gone from losing over 700,000 jobs each month to steady private sector job growth.

This summer will be the most active Recovery Act season yet, with tens of thousands of projects kicking off, including:

* 10,000 transportation and highway projects creating hundreds of thousands of jobs;
* More than 3,000 clean and infrastructure drinking water projects; and
* Nearly 800 projects underway at our national parks.

And we're doing our part at the Labor Department to ensure that all Americans, including Latinos, have the ability to participate in the economic recovery efforts.

How Latinos recover from this recession is both an immediate and long-term importance to our economy.

New Mexico alone has received a total of $148 million to create and maintain jobs.

These funds are being distributed to different businesses, schools and organizations.

Including community colleges, veterans, low-income and older workers, incarcerated men and women, those that want to start or want to expand their business in renewable energy...

The Department of Labor is creating opportunities for you!

And once on the job, we make sure your labor rights are respected.

My philosophy is: It's not a good job unless it's a safe and secure job.

Every day in this country, more than 14 workers lose their lives in preventable workplace tragedies -- 5,000 a year.

This deadly trend must stop.

And we feel it in our communities. Latinos are maimed and killed in greater proportions than any other group of workers in America.

That is why I have hired an additional 710 investigators, with an emphasis on bilingual staff.

And I have directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to conduct Safety Seminars across the country, focusing to reduce injuries and illnesses among Latino workers.

And while we are focused on safety for our communities and workers, we are also working to ensure that they are paid for their hard work!

In April, we launched the "We Can Help" Campaign -- "Podemos Ayudar."

This public awareness program informs workers of their rights, and encourages them -- regardless of their immigration status -- to report violations of wage and hour laws that occur on the job.

All across our country, my staff has begun to conduct outreach to stakeholders and vulnerable workers in a broad range of industries.

Now, I have taken some heat for this program.

There are people who think that we should not be helping workers -- who are here illegally to fight for their wages.

But, it's very simple -- it's the law.

All workers should be paid for working.

Let me be very clear... My job is to enforce the law.

And I will not tolerate those employers who break them and prey on vulnerable workers -- especially during these tough economic times.

It's about ensuring an even-playing field.

I am also proud that we not only enforce the law but have been able to strengthen our laws and hone in on the most vulnerable:

* Such as the changes we made in worker protections for H-2A agricultural workers and for domestic workers performing the same work;
* An increased focus to protect youth working in agriculture with proposed higher penalties;
* The increase of our budget request for the National Farmworker Jobs Program by $1 million;
* We have begun to exercise our authority to certify applications for U Non-immigrant Status Visas, which are designed to help victims of qualifying criminal activities who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse and sex-trafficking;
* We have implemented a higher penalty structure for the illegal employment of children in non-agricultural workplaces who are too young to work.

The bottom line is that the Obama Administration has been focused on taking strong and politically-difficult steps on behalf of Latinos and all Americans.

From acting boldly to rescue our country from a potential second Great Depression, to expanding health insurance for children through CHIP... which for the first time ever, allowed states to cover legal immigrant children.

That's something the Latino community fought for over 12 years.

And the health insurance reform the President signed into law overwhelmingly benefits the Latino community perhaps more than any other.

More uninsured Latino children will be eligible for health care coverage.

And in terms of immigration, the fact is the President has strongly advocated for the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform, making it clear it needs to get done.

Like President Obama, and countless Americans, I believe that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a complete solution that secures our borders, enforces our laws, and reaffirms our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

That is why the Justice Department has filed suit against Arizona.

States definitely have a role to play in assisting with the enforcement of federal immigration law, but the Arizona law is clearly not the answer.

The answer is common-sense comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of security, responsibility and accountability.

What we all need to work on -- and I mean everyone in this room - is to help bring the 11 Republican Senators that not so long ago supported immigration reform and now refuse to get on board.

Would you like to know who they are?

I'll tell you who they are: Senators Bennett, Brownback, Collins, Graham, Gregg, Lugar, McCain, McConnell, Murkowski, Snowe and Voinovich.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot of hard work ahead!

I believe that if we build the foundation now, we are going to create the kind of America that we want for the next generation.

Better days are ahead of us, but we've got to fight for that future today.

I want to work on this with you; for a better future for Latinos and all Americans.

And I'm absolutely positive that if we can unify the country, if we have the courage to help bring about change, then nothing can stop us.

President Obama wants to move forward, I want to move forward... LULAC do you want to move forward?

All right lets do it! Porque Sí Se Puede!!!

Thank you very much for having me today.

Thank you LULAC.


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